Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Private Tennis Club Operating On Randall's Island - Critics Charge

Critics are raising a racket over the Parks Department's decision to allow a private tennis club to operate on public land and want the Randalls Island facility to lower its rates.
The Bloomberg administration allowed a $19 million dollar private tennis club to be built on Randall's Island. Sportime charges $72 to $105 per hour for indoor courts, on top of fees of $500-750 to join, and monthly dues paid by its 2,000 members. The December 31, 2001 agreement between the City and the Randall's Island Sports Foundation (RISF) allows the license fees to be paid to the (RISF) instead of to the City's general fund. RISF collected approx. $750,000 last year. The project - spearheaded by RISF - avoided ULURP which is required for a “new building of more than 15,000 square feet ... located on park land.” (Photo: Warga/NY Daily News)

Randall's Island

The city's elite are holding court at a swanky tennis center on Randalls Island, with members shelling out more than $1,000 a year for perks, shutting out poor players from the South Bronx and East Harlem, critics charge, according to the New York Daily News.

Park advocates and local leaders from both sides of the East River have been slamming the Parks Department for allowing a private club to operate on public parkland, and skipping the public review process.

They want Parks to review its contract with Sportime on Randalls Island and force the club, which opened 18 months ago, to lower its rates.

"It is outrageous that our public land has been sold to the highest bidder," said Marina Ortiz of East Harlem Preservation.

The facility is generating cash for the Randalls Island Sports Foundation, the nonprofit that manages the park, but none for the city's depleted coffers.

Sportime charges $72 to $105 per hour for indoor courts, on top of fees of $500-750 to join, and monthly dues paid by its 2,000 members.

"No one I know can afford those rates," said Ortiz.

Sportime members get discounted court time and the right to book courts before nonmembers. They also enjoy access to "members only" locker rooms with steam baths and a massage therapist.

"This private club is for wealthy New Yorkers and private schools," said Geoffrey Croft of New York City Park Advocates.

Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito (D-East Harlem) called the perks "ridiculous."

"What benefits are there for the average Joe off the street?" she said.

Croft said Parks could force Sportime to change its membership system or even revoke the club's contract.

Sportime rents court time to Manhattan private schools. The club's shuttle bus stops only on the upper East Side.

In 2006, private schools offered funding for new ball fields on Randalls Island in exchange for exclusive field time, and advocates blocked the deal arguing Parks bypassed the city's public review process.

Boden said the review was unnecessary for Sportime because there already were tennis courts on Randalls Island.

But Croft said those courts were located elsewhere and noted that the process is required for buildings over 15,000 square feet, such as the tennis club.

The enormous new tennis facility which had NOT previously existed at this location was allowed to be built avoided ULURP. (Photo: Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates) Click on image to enlarge

Read More:

New York Daily News - January 25, 2011 - By Daniel Beekman

1 comment:

  1. Sportime also makes you join and pay an initiation fee and a monthly fee, even if you just want to put your child in a tennis class once a week! And they said you either have to continue paying the monthly fee during the summer, when my son won't even be taking lessons there, or if you cancel your membership for the summer, then you have to pay the initation fee again in the fall to rejoin! I don't know of any other tennis facility that requires you to pay to join if you just want your child to take lessons at the facility. I am getting no benefit out of a membership. It's outrageous that Sportime is allowed to operate like this.